Swedish government plans to bring back shortage test for work permits

Sweden's government has announced plans to further tighten labour migration, bringing back a requirement that workers recruited overseas are filling in for domestic labour shortages.

Swedish government plans to bring back shortage test for work permits
Migration minister Anders Ygeman at Thursday's press conference. Photo: Anders Wiklund/TT

“We need order in the Swedish labour market,” Anders Ygeman, Sweden’s migration minister, said announcing the plans at a press conference on Thursday. “Sweden should not compete with low wages and bad working conditions”.

The government now wants to introduce so-called arbetsmarknadsprövning, a system scrapped in 2008 where prospective labour migrants wanting to work in Sweden will only have their work permits approved if they are filling a position where there is a national shortage.

The change comes on top of new tighter rules due to come in on June 1st, which will require work permit applicants to have a job contract before a permit can be granted. 

READ ALSO: How could a new shortage test for work permits impact foreigners in Sweden?

If arbetsmarknadsprövning is brought back, the availability of work permits will be dependent on unions, employers, and other authorities confirming that they lack staff in the profession in question.

The new proposals will also mean employers will have to report details of job applications to the Migration Agency, as well as informing the agency if the terms of employment become worse.

The government has not yet submitted a proposal to reintroduce arbetsmarknadsprövning.

Instead, it has started the process of launching an investigation into how policy on arbetsmarknadsprövning could be reintroduced, with the goal of combatting “wage dumping”, a situation in which wages are offered at a level much lower than what is normal in the industry, usually to foreign workers brought in specifically for the job.

READ ALSO: How will the new work permit law just passed in Sweden affect foreigners?

The investigation is expected to be launch before the summer, after which it will run for a year, meaning it would be unlikely that any change would come into force before the end of 2023.

The government said it hoped that arbetsmarknadsprövning would combat exploitation of labour migrants and reduce the level of abuse of the work permit system.

Unions and other authorities have been arguing that the current legislation is not sufficient, as it is easily exploited by organised crime.

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EXPLAINED: What do we know so far about Sweden’s new ‘talent visa’?

In the new work permit law which comes into force on June 1st, Sweden is launching a new nine-month 'talent visa', which will allow “some highly qualified individuals” to get temporary residency while they look for jobs or plan to launch a business. What do we know so far?

EXPLAINED: What do we know so far about Sweden's new 'talent visa'?

When was the law passed and when does it come into force? 

The parliament passed the new law on April 21st, and the final text of the change in the law was published on May 5th. It will come into force on June 1st. 

What does the new law say about the ‘talent visa’? 

It says that “in certain cases”, a temporary residency permit can be granted to a foreigner who wants to “spend time in the country to look for work or to look into the possibility of starting a business”. 

To qualify the applicant must: 

  • have completed studies equivalent to an advanced level degree 
  • have sufficient means to support themselves during their stay and to cover the cost of their return trip 
  • have fully comprehensive health insurance which is valid in Sweden 

How long can people initially stay in Sweden under the talent visa? 

The residency permit will be valid for a maximum of nine months.

Which agency will assess applications for the talent visa? 

The government has decided that applications should be assessed by the Migration Agency. The Migration Agency will publish more details on the requirements, such as what qualifies as an advanced degree, what documents need to be submitted, and how much capital applicants will need to show they can support themselves, in the coming weeks. 

The Migration Agency is also likely to develop a form for those wishing to apply for the talent visa. 

What level of education is necessary? 

What is meant by an “advanced degree” has not been set ou in the law, but according to Karl Rahm, who has helped draw up the law within the Ministry of Justice, a master’s degree (MA or MSc), should be sufficient. 

How much capital will applicants need to show that they have? 

According to Rahm, the amount of money applicants will need to show that they have is likely to be set at the same level as the minimum salary for those applying for a work permit, which is currently 13,000 kronor a month. If he is right, this means that someone applying for a nine-month visa would have to show that they have 117,000 kronor (€11,259) in saved capital, plus extra for their trip back to their home country.

READ ALSO: How will the new work permit law just passed in Sweden affect foreigners?

Can applicants bring children and spouses? 

“You will not be able to bring your family with this kind of visa, since the idea is that it’s for a relatively limited amount of time,  just to see if there is employment for you, or if there is a chance of starting a business,” says Elin Jansson, deputy director at the Ministry of Justice, who helped work on the new visa. “And if you do decide to stay in Sweden, then you apply for a regular work permit for starting up a business, and then you can bring your family.” 

Where will detailed information on the requirements for a talent visa be published? 

The Migration Agency will publish detailed requirements on the talent visa on its Working in Sweden page when the law starts to apply on June 1st. 

What is the reason for the talent visa? 

Those searching for a job or researching starting a new business in Sweden can already stay for up to 90 days with a normal Schengen visa. The idea behind the talent visa is to give highly educated foreigners a little longer to decide if they want to find a job or set up a business in the country before they need to go the whole way and launch a company. 

How many people are expected to apply? 

In the government inquiry on the new work permit law, experts estimated that about 500 people would apply for the new talent visa each year, but it could end up being either much more, or less. 

“It’s really hard to tell. There could be a really big demand. I don’t think it’s anyone can really say before this comes into effect,” Jansson said.